Of all the over-the-top design details we’ve seen on shirts so far in 2017 — ruffles everywhere, ties and sashes that do absolutely nothing, slogans that advertise your love of brunch — the “things on boobs” T-shirt is pretty low on the scale of claw-your-eyes-out offensive. But the style, which you may or may not have noticed cropping up among indie brands and on Etsy and even at Forever 21, might be the one that irks me the most. (If you haven’t seen them yet, well, apologies for the intro.)
It annoys me because it’s a shameless way to call attention to your actual boobs, often with illustrations of things meant to evoke your nipples — avocados, fried eggs, flowers, skeleton hands holding pumpkins, or hell, just line drawings of boobs — right on top of your nipples. It annoys me because the whole “free the nipple” shirt thing plays into this new brand of faux feminism where it’s trendy to pay $80 or more on merch that’s exploiting how fed up we all are with the men in power making decisions that affect our bodies and our wallets. More than that, though, it annoys me because I actually kind of like it.
Exhibit A: Collina Strada’s Call Mom Tee ($69). Check out blogger @Double3xposure posing in the Brooklyn brand’s T-shirt. It’s a cheeky slogan to begin with, made cheekier by the fact that the embroidered words are split up to live, yup, right on top of your boobs.
Exhibit B: Ganni’s Peach Tee ($84). Right away, it’s clear that this innocent fruit is meant to be evocative of, ahem, body parts, which means I should hate it as much as I hate this pineapple shirt (or any of these Etsy shirts, really). But I don’t! Is it the color of the peaches? The way they kind of look like hearts? Truly, couldn’t tell you.
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Exhibit C: Femininitees Censored Tee ($36). This one really walks the line for me. It’s overtly “free the nipple”-themed, but the brand donates a portion of proceeds to the National Organization for Women, so there’s that. (It also makes shirts with embroidered nipples in different colors, too, if you want to just cut to the chase.)
I tried to figure out who did it first, but the closest I got was tracing the idea as an outgrowth of the “boobs on things” trend, popularized by brands like Otherwild, Cold Picnic, and Group Partner. That motif started two or three years ago but really took hold last spring, when I would regularly get pitched product stories about all the “boobs on things” you could buy (boobs on T-shirts, boobs on bath mats, boobs on planters — you name it, and someone has already put a boob on it). And in its aftermath, now we’ve got things on boobs.
Honestly, I should probably just be glad we’re all so happy about our boobs that we want to decorate bath mats with them, not to mention decorate them with fried eggs and peaches. And if you want to share your feelings on this look (be they love, hate, or both), please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.